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Trick situation with PI


tyktkt
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Ok, so here's the situation.

I am a master's student working in a lab in the US for a year-long master's thesis project. I will be graduating from an institute in my home-country this coming May, and I am applying for graduate school for the fall '18 cycle. My PI is a very well known scientist in our field and working here is awesome, but I am not in a top tier university right now and I am pretty sure I do not want to join the PhD program here because I am pretty sure I can get into a much better school. Here's where it gets a little tricky. I want my PI to write a recommendation letter for me. I am worried that when I go ask him for one, he might ask me why I  don't want to continue working with him. I am not sure what to tell him. Any suggestions?

 

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6 hours ago, shreyasvm said:

Ok, so here's the situation.

I am a master's student working in a lab in the US for a year-long master's thesis project. I will be graduating from an institute in my home-country this coming May, and I am applying for graduate school for the fall '18 cycle. My PI is a very well known scientist in our field and working here is awesome, but I am not in a top tier university right now and I am pretty sure I do not want to join the PhD program here because I am pretty sure I can get into a much better school. Here's where it gets a little tricky. I want my PI to write a recommendation letter for me. I am worried that when I go ask him for one, he might ask me why I  don't want to continue working with him. I am not sure what to tell him. Any suggestions?

 

Unless you've spoken about staying in the past, PIs don't necessarily assume that you'll stay there past your degree. You can tell him the honest truth. While you love the work you're doing with him, you feel like other universities would meet your future goals better. If you're applying to your current university too (as a back-up) even better. That way, it looks like you're being pragmatic in your PhD applications. I doubt he'd even ask.

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Yep, so this is usually entirely common and not something anyone should be upset about. I think saying very honestly that you are hoping to make the best of this opportunity and you're applying to a variety of schools to see what happens is totally fair. Similarly saying that you want to study abroad is another way to explain why you're applying elsewhere that doesn't imply anything negative about your current lab. 

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